Five thoughts on the second day of NFL free agency and how it all relates to the Patriots
Here are five thoughts on what’s gone on during Day 2 of NFL free agency and how it relates to the Patriots:
1. Per a league source, the Patriots will host safety Steve Gregory on a visit Wednesday afternoon. Gregory is a 29-year-old undrafted free agent out of Syracuse who has spent six years in the NFL, all with the Chargers. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder does have some positional versatility — he has worked as a safety, and also spent time in the slot and on special teams. Hard-nosed and versatile, Gregory (who was suspended for PEDs in 2010) had 67 tackles and one interception in 2011. As some have already noted, there’s a belief that Gregory was out of position playing alongside free safety Eric Weddle in San Diego, and could be better suited playing more of a free safety role next to someone like Patrick Chung. (It tells you something about the state of the safety position that Gregory is starting to develop a following — a league source indicates that Gregory has at least four other teams who are interested in his services, including the Broncos and Panthers, with a few more teams poised to inquire about him by the end of the day.)
2. In addition, the Patriots have reportedly expressed interest in safety LaRon Landy, late of the Redskins. The five-year veteran was plagued with injuries last season, including an Achilles tendon problem that forced him to injured reserve in mid-December. The 6-foot, 220-pound Landry is a really interesting case — he has some working knowledge of a Bill Belichick-type of system, as he played in college for Nick Saban when Saban was at LSU. Because he’s coming off an injury, he’s likely to come at a discounted price. And with the depressed safety market, he could be the best value out there, especially when you consider the fact that he played very well over the first three years of his career (including a 90-tackle season in 2009). But the 27-year-old has had major injury problems over the last two years — he’s played in just 17 games the last two seasons, and fair or not, there are concerns about him being able to stay on the field. (According to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, the Jets, Eagles, Lions and Bears have also apparently expressed interest in Landry.) And I’m not even sure what to make of his arms.
3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis continues to be the biggest name available among current Patriots’ free agents. The running back, who was attached to two “unknown teams” on Wednesday at a price of roughly $3 million to $4 million a year, will reportedly take a visit with Cincinnati, according to Cole. (It’s not known if the Bengals were one of those two teams that were previously listed on Tuesday.) Cincinnati would be a good landing spot for Green-Ellis — the Bengals have a lot of room under the cap, and the running back would give a playoff team a positive, dependable presence in the backfield. It’s also interesting to see the feedback from Patriots’ fan on Twitter regarding Green-Ellis’ situation. When faced with the prospect of losing Green-Ellis to a bigger deal somewhere else, almost everyone has wished him well. Speaks to his likeability among the New England fan base.
4. A pair of defensive linemen have reportedly popped up on New England’s radar screen in Jonathan Fanene and Kendall Langford. Both have extensive experience at left defensive end (Fanene with the Bengals and Langford with the Dolphins), and could be intriguing pieces of the puzzle for the Patriots. Fanene is a 6-foot-4, 292-pounder out of Utah who has played seven seasons in the NFL, all with Cincinnati. The 29-year-old had his best season in 2009 when he started 10 games and finished with 36 tackles (18 solo) with six sacks and an interception. As for Langford, he’s a 6-foot-6, 295-pounder out of Hampton who has spent four years in the league, all with Miami. His best season came in 2010 when he started all 16 games with the Dolphins and came away with 47 tackles (33 solo) and three sacks.
(UPDATE, 2:53 p.m.: Aaron Wilson of FoxSports reports that the Patriots have signed Fanene to a three-year deal.)
5. And finally, a league source was able to confirm that the Patriots have agreed to a new deal with linebacker and special teams’ ace Tracy White. White and Matthew Slater (who is also apparently close to signing a deal to return to New England) are two of New England’s premiere special teamers. The 30-year-old White, who just completed his ninth season in the NFL, finished the 2011 season with 37 tackles (27 solo) and one pass defensed. A key part of New England’s special teams, he saw an increased role in the regular defensive rotation at points throughout the 2011 campaign. That included extensive time in the Super Bowl, playing 21 snaps (according to Pro Football Focus) over the first two quarters of the loss to the Giants.